How To Detail Your Car - The Full Guide | A-Chem
What is Car Detailing?
Detailing is more than just washing your car, as it involves cleaning, correcting and protecting your vehicle. Car Detailing involves deep cleaning your car, both interior and exterior, to get it to a standard where it looks the best it possibly can. You can take your vehicle to a specialist so that they can perform a full detailing service. However, it is possible to go some way to detailing your car at home with the right products and guidance.
Exterior Car Detailing
There are 4 main steps to exterior detailing – Wash, Decontaminate, Correct and Protect. We have broken down each step into stages to make it simple.
The Wash Stage
Wheel Cleaning – Use a non-acidic wheel cleaner or acid free wheel cleaning gel which can be sprayed and left to soak on the wheels. Use a wheel cleaning brush where necessary to agitate any ingrained grime, and then pressure wash the cleaner and dirt from the wheel.
Citrus Wash – This is a safe but effective product which is used to break down dirt, traffic film and bugs. Simply spray on and use an exterior detailing brush where required to agitate any particularly tough dirt, and to get into intricate areas, then rinse off. Engine bays can also be cleaned using Citrus Wash, and it can be sprayed, allowed to dwell, agitated and then wiped or gently rinsed – being extremely careful not to get water in contact with electrical components under the bonnet.
Snow Foam – It is important to use a snow foam before touching the car, as this will ensure that any loose and potentially scratch-causing dirt is removed from the surface. Using a snow foam lance, apply liberally over the car, allow to dwell and rinse off.
Shampoo – A high-quality shampoo, wash mitt and two buckets with grit guards are needed to ensure that the first contact stage of a wash is a gentle and as low risk as possible. Using a sponge and one bucket will cause scratches, whereas a wash mitt which ensures there is no surface dirt on the mitt, and only clean shampoo solution is used on the paintwork. Use one bucket with the shampoo solution (wash), and one bucket with clean water (rinse) – dip the wash mitt into the wash bucket, apply to the vehicle, and then rinse the contaminants from the wash mitt in the rinse bucket, repeat (starting at the top of the car and working to the bottom) until the car is cleaned, and then rinse.
The Decontamination Stage
Iron Fall Out Removal – This is a very important part of the process, as brake dust and other iron contamination can embed itself into the surface of the paintwork and wheels. Using an iron fallout remover such as X-Tract, spray on, allow to dwell and then rinse off after the reaction (the red visual colour change) has taken place. Iron fall out removers can be used on paintwork as well as wheels.
Tar & Glue Removal – Ensure that all tar (potentially from road-resurfacing or a warm summer) and glue (from signwriting or stickers) is removed from the surface using a dedicated tar and glue remover. Although our Target is easy to rinse off due to the emulsifiers in the product, we would still recommend cleaning the areas where it has been used with a detergent before the next stage.
Clay Mitt / Bar / Pad – This will remove any ingrained dirt or contamination which the previous steps didn’t remove – you can use a shampoo solution or quick detailer as a clay lube to ensure that the mitt or bar move smoothly over the surface, alternatively we offer dedicated Clay Lubes under bespoke manufacturing.
Re-wash the car with snow foam and shampoo after the decontamination stage, and ensure it is dry before continuing.
The Correction Stage
Depending on the level of detail that is being done, corrections can be done with a simple hand applied car polish or a more aggressive and permanent machine applied cutting compound.
Quick Correction – A hand-applied polish can be used for quick correction and can be done with a simple PDI, All in One or Cut and Shine polish, depending on the condition of the paintwork. Note, these types of hand applied polishes use fillers and mask scratches and swirls rather than permanently correcting them.
Permanent Correction – This is aimed for a professional detailer, or experienced enthusiast, who understand the condition and thickness of the paint and how aggressive the compound being used should be. For permanent multi-stage correction, a rotary or dual action machine polisher should be used, along with suitable pads and cutting compounds.
If using permanent correction products such as cutting compounds, we would recommend using panel wipe sprays and cleaning the surface thoroughly, otherwise, the protection is applied at the next stage may not bond to the surface adequately due to carrier oils and other potentially interfering substances in the polishing products.
Correction of plastics such as headlights and other metals such as badges and exhaust tips should be corrected in full detail, and dedicated abrasive compounds can be used for such requirements.
The Protection/Finishing Stage
The type of protection that can be applied to the exterior of a vehicle can vary depending on the level of detail being undertaken and the experience of the detailer.
Enthusiast Paint Protection – Car waxes (paintwork and wheel) and easy to use sealants can be used, as they are forgiving if applied wrong. These are recommended for detailers who are not experienced with high end sealants or coatings or do not have a controlled environment to apply a higher level coating (such as a temperature and moisture controlled facility). These product types will usually last between 3-12 months, depending on the price point and requirements.
Professional Paint Protection – Ceramic Coatings – These are only recommended for experienced and trained users and if applied incorrectly can result in a full machine polish of the car being required. However, when applied correctly, durability is excellent, offering high levels of protection for in excess of 2 years, and in some cases in excess of 5 years. Ceramic coatings offer self-cleaning/easy-clean properties and high levels of gloss.
Glass Cleaners & Sealants – Before sealants are applied, a high-quality glass cleaner should be used to remove all contaminants (glass polish may be required for stubborn residues). Enthusiast or professional grades of glass sealants are available and should be applied after an IPA wipe down of the glass. Choose from our Glass Coat with up to 6 months’ worth of durability, or dedicated ceramic glass coatings.
Trims and Dressings – For the perfect finish, trim & tyre gels and plastic dressings are required to give a “back to black” look – solvent-based dressings are typically more durable for exterior surfaces. Plastic dressings and sealants can also be under in the engine bay to allow easier cleaning further down the line.
Quick Detailers – For any light dust or residues that have been missed from previous stages, a quick detailer can be used – simply spray on and then wipe off all surfaces to leave a perfect finish.
Interior Car Detailing
Detailing the interior of a vehicle is very dependent on the surfaces present – whether it be fabric, leather, suede or Alcantara. It is important to clean and protect the interior in case of spillages and for ease of future cleaning.
The Cleaning Stage
Leather – Using our dedicated leather cleaner, which contains natural soaps and a premium “as new leather” fragrance, simply spray or foam onto the surface, work into the surface with a very soft brush, then wipe dry with a microfiber cloth.
Plastic – A diluted solution of general purpose cleaner/citrus wash is the best way of cleaning any ingrained dirt on plastic door panels, or surfaces. For light dust and dirt, a dashboard renovator such as Quickshine is the safer and gentler option.
Fabric – A wet vac with a low foam carpet & upholstery shampoo will deep clean seats, upholstery and car mats to a perfect condition – simply dilute, spray and agitate where necessary and wet vac after use.
The Protection/Finishing Stage
Leather – Depending on the desired result and age of leather (if it is coated or synthetic leather or real), leather can be conditioned or sealed. Our leather conditioner offers a wax enriched protective finish which ensures easier cleaning and leaves a nice sheen finish. Our leather sealant gives an invisible finish, which offers durable protection against staining and general dirt and grime. We also offer a two in one conditioner and sealant under bespoke manufacturing.
Plastics – Plastic dressings and sealants can be used to give a darker and more desired finish, especially on older cars. Sealants will give extended UV protection to avoid fading of plastics in the long term.
Fabric – Interior fabric protectors can be used to prevent staining from spillages and give protection against day to day dirt and grime which may absorb into the fabric.
Glass Cleaners – Our range of glass cleaners (including hydrophobic and anti-fog) are perfect for deep cleaning glass in the exterior and interior of vehicles, leaving a smear free finish.
Liquid Air Fresheners – For the final touch, a liquid air freshener can be sprayed into the interior for that perfect first impression as the customer (if it is not your own car), opens the door.
For deeper interior details the car seats can be removed, and also deep cleaning of the roof headliner is required.
If you have any questions about the products mentioned above, get in touch with our expert team for more information regarding car detailing.